ST. PETERSBURG — There was a mixture of exhilaration and trepidation surrounding Lakewood's boys basketball team in Saturday's Class 4A, region final.
Exhilaration because the Spartans and their dedicated fans hoped this would be the game in which their longtime coach, Dan Wright, tied former Gibbs coach Freddie Dyles as the all-time career wins leader with 674.
Trepidation because Lakewood faced Fort Myers, ranked No. 1 in 4A most of the season.
The milestone will have to wait after the Spartans lost 79-65. They were beaten at their own game. Lakewood (22-8) relies on its quickness to turn up the pressure on opponents. The Green Wave (26-5) does the same and was better at it Saturday night.
"We were not able to do the little things," Wright said. "That's how we ended up with a deficit and had a hard time overcoming that."
Fort Myers never trailed and started on an 8-0 run. The Spartans spent the rest of the game rallying and cut it to 14-13 near the end of the first quarter. But the Green Wave answered with back-to-back baskets to make it 18-13.
"Having to come back like that takes a toll," Lakewood forward Dominic Lane said. "We did our best to make it a game, but we had a hard time fighting to get back into it."
By halftime, Fort Myers was up 36-29 and extended its lead to double digits early in the second half. Again, the Spartans bore down and cut it to 51-46 midway through the third.
Then the momentum shifted. Lane was called for a technical foul, the Green Wave converted both free throws and scored a quick layup to go up big again.
"It was uphill from the start," Wright said. "Most of (Fort Myers') opportunities came off our mistakes."
In the fourth quarter, the Green Wave was up 67-51. The Spartans were plagued by foul trouble. Lane and Bernard Reedy each had four. Still, Lakewood came back and was down by 10 with a minute left but could not get any closer.
"We kept fighting and never quit and I'm proud of the guys for that," Wright said. "But we were doing some things that were uncharacteristic for us."
Mike Singleton led Lakewood with 23 points, followed by LaDarius Barnes with 10.
"We wanted to win so bad and make it to the state tournament," Singleton said. "And it would have been nice to have Coach Wright tie the record. We just couldn't get it done."